Last year 173 people, mostly women, were killed by their partners. It’s the highest figure for five years and a rise of 32 on the number in 2017.

The statistics were supplied by 43 police forces around the UK. They are not broken down into men and women but figures from England and Wales between April 2014 and March 2017 showed that about three-quarters of victims of domestic killings by a partner, ex-partner or family member were women. Suspects are predominantly male.

Domestic violence murders are an escalation of a pattern of abuse that might have been going on for years or even decades.

But the Domestic Abuse Bill is one of the pieces of legislation that has fallen by the wayside while the UK Parliament is prorogued. Scotland’s Domestic Abuse Act, which came into force in April, puts us ahead of the rest of the UK. It recognises psychological domestic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour as crimes.

When Astyn Findlay reported her abusive partner to the police, they warned her one of them was going to end up “in a body bag”.

Lawrence Barilli regularly locked Astyn, then 17, in the house. He turned off the electricity, unplugged the wifi, took the sim card out of her phone, then headed off to work.

He insisted she get her contraceptive implant removed – then refused to use condoms.

A younger Astyn Findlay with abusive partner Lawrence Barilli in the background

She finally left the relationship when their baby daughter Bethany saw him push her up against a wall with his arm across her throat.

In 2017, Barilli was sentenced to 27 months for physical and domestic abuse. Two charges of rape were found not proven.

Astyn, now 28, is one of the women interviewed by Daily Record columnist Darren McGarvey in his documentary series on BBC Scotland.

She tells Darren there were warning signs from the start of the relationship with Barilli. But back then, she thought she had met a nice guy who would give her the happy home life that she had always wanted.

Astyn said: “He was 26, nine-and-a-half years older than me. He seemed like a lovely guy, always laughing, always offering people lifts home.

“On paper, he sounded good – older guy, car, job. He went on about how he had kids. I didn’t know he wasn’t allowed to see them. I craved stability. I was, ‘Wow.’

 

“I was essentially groomed at 17 into an abusive relationship. He knew what he was doing. He’s done it to many women.”

The relationship moved at 100 miles an hour. He pressurised her to have sex and move in with him, claiming that’s what happened in an “adult relationship”. Astyn added: “I didn’t really know much about domestic violence then.

“I would have said that I would never let a man hit me but I didn’t recognise his behaviour at the start as a red flag.”

It wasn’t all manipulation and emotional blackmail.

She said: “At the start, he was dead nice. He would take me to places I’ve not been before. We took off in the car, we ate out all the time, we went to Blackpool on random days out.

Astyn Findlay is now featuring in Record columnist Darren McGarvey's new BBC documentary

“I’d never been treated like this by my mum or anyone. I thought, ‘This is pure nice.’ He would buy me flowers, he’d say, ‘Here’s money, get yourself some clothes.’”

Astyn now recognises his behaviour for what it was. She said: “It was the reining in part – I’ll treat you good, I’ll treat you OK, then I’ll treat you bad.”

By controlling her access to phones, computers and wifi, Barilli damaged Astyn’s ties with her family and friends. He persuaded her that her mum didn’t love her. She left her job after he turned up and caused such a “rumpus” that she couldn’t go back.

She added: “He’d tell me that I don’t need to work, he can support both of us, he made enough money.”

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Three months in, the physical violence started. After a night out, Barilli punched Astyn and grabbed her by the hair. Neighbours called the police and got her to her grandfather’s for the night.

The next day, the apologies started. He’d been so drunk, it would never happen again.

Astyn recalled: “This was the pattern for a while. Then, it was just violence – no excuses, no sorries, nothing.”

Barilli’s next move was to get Astyn pregnant by getting her to have the contraceptive implant removed.

She said: “I didn’t want a baby and he would tell me he didn’t want kids. But he would blame me when he was hitting me. He’d say, ‘You’re being a snappy cow. It’s that rod in your arm. You need to get that took out or else we’re done.’”

He drove her to the sexual health clinic in Glasgow to make sure it was removed. He then refused to use condoms.

She said: “He was trapping me with a baby. I love Bethany to bits. She was the making of me but I wasn’t ecstatic about being pregnant at 17.

Astyn Findlay cuddling into Bethany - she says when her daughter saw Lawrence hit her that was the last straw

“The violence continued all through pregnancy. At one point, I had a knife held to my throat. I thought I was going to lose her every time I was battered.”

The crunch came when Bethany was five months old.

Astyn said: “My daughter was sitting in her pram, I was in the hall. He had me up against the wall with his arm on my throat. Bethany was watching and screaming.

“He got me to the ground, got on top of me and started choking me. Bethany was hysterical. When he tried to take her out of her pram, I whipped her right off him and walked out.

“I had a black eye, a big cut across my face. I grabbed a bus, went into that town and said, ‘Never again.’”

Today, Astyn is happily married and Bethany has three wee brothers.

The mum has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder, both of which can result from traumatic events. She said: “I’ll probably never get fully over it.”

Three years ago, she pressed charges against Barilli.

She said: “This is going to keep happening. We need to recognise all the red flags and be able to leave the situation before you’re stuck. “